While Char had been around, they had been using my given name, Ella, but as soon as the door closed behind him I became once again Cinderella, Cinders, that contemptuous name with which my stepsisters had mocked me. Indeed, the resemblance of the Queen and Princess to my stepsisters was remarkable: the same sly, taunting tones, the same scornful looks, and above all the same sharp, strong fingernails with which they pinched and prodded me. I felt as helpless as I had done back at my father’s house, cleaning out the ashes from the fire and scrubbing the kitchen floor.
I was, of course, given a maid to attend me, as befitted my station. This was an added, subtle torture. Belinda was well aware of the Queen’s feelings towards me, and she knew that she could get away with almost any discourtesy and petty cruelty. To be laced into a corset by a maid who resents and despises you is a most unpleasant experience: by the time I was dressed for the day I could barely breathe or walk, and my stomach was so squashed in that I could only manage a mouthful or two of food at a meal.
After the lacing and the painful hair brushing which followed (I have no idea how she managed to find so many knots in my hair which all required dragging out) I was expected to receive visitors. Every single one of them was an old friend of Charmaine, and the majority had been among the list of potential brides-to-be for Char, so I’m sure you can imagine how friendly they felt towards me. They sipped their tea daintily from their bone-china cups as they murmured how very surprised they were at Char’s choice, adding, “But, of course, first marriages seldom last”.
To be continued